Thursday, 6 July 2017

Diary date: Lark in the Park on 15th July 2017

Lark in the Park event in Mayow Park, organised by Perry Vale Ward Assembly. 15th July  from 12 noon until 4pm. Free entry. Community stalls, food, ice cream, children's activities, Grow Mayow, tennis tasters and much more. Come along support  groups and organisations in our locality.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Summer pruning orchard workday June2017

We had a very productive Orchard Summer Pruning and tree care session on 24th June with a total of 12 adults and 5 children. Good weather obviously plays an important part in determining how many people are able to take part, so that was a good start. We put up our gazebo to signpost our presence and placed our sign board nearby so that passers-by would recognise who we were and what we were doing.

As usual on these occasions we went through the risk assessment, safe handling of tools and list of tasks for today.
First up was to check trees for pests and diseases. We found some ant and aphid activity on two trees, most noticeable on the Cox's Orange Pippin; some leaves on some trees had evidence of leaf miner but nothing to worry about. Some leaves on the pear trees are starting to show signs of rust but this should not cause serious damage. Many of the apple trees are bearing heavy loads of fruit so we thinned out clusters to prevent disease and encourage the fruits to grow bigger.

Before pruning started in earnest we ran through the reminder of what to look for with the branches:
CROSSING OR CONGESTED (i.e. overcrowded)

The plum and cherry trees can only be pruned in summer as winter pruning risks developing Silver Leaf, a fungal disease that could destroy a tree. It is probably better to summer prune in July and August but today was our workday for this task.
Before we could prune, some of the tree guards needed to be reduced in height. They have helped to protect the trees pretty well, despite two guards having been damaged during the past few months.

Jonathan inspects the Quince before cutting the height of the tree guard

Sandra with Lane's Prince Albert apple
Robert & Jon reduce the height of the guard round the cherry

Jon among the plums
While the pruning was going on, Sue with her able assistant Christopher (aged 4) were cutting down the comfrey plants, putting them into the wheelbarrow, then chopping them up into small pieces to put round the trees as mulch.
Christopher chops up comfrey leaves to use as mulch

Two other able-bodied young helpers were Thomas and Daniel, watched over by Carol while Jonathan cut down the guards around the quince.
Daniel and Thomas supervise the work
We also had two babies (under 12 months old) supervising us and other adults not in these photos.
Half-way through our work Lewisham's Mayor, Steve Bullock, came to officially open the newly refurbished tennis courts. They have been open for a few weeks already  and have been welcomed by most  of our enthusiastic tennis players.

Newly refurbished tennis courts - May 2017

 We were invited to join in to see the cutting of the ribbon  and share in the delicious strawberries and cream cake.These photos of the Mayor and the cake were taken by Carol Robinson.

And here are photos from the official photographer, including
- a group photo of the Mayor, tennis players, young children and the orchard volunteers
- the tennis courts
- the amazing cake

Three hours of orchard work by the team of volunteers passed by very quickly and the opportunity for a group photo was lost as people went home. In addition to pruning, guard height reduction and comfrey mulching, we also managed to weed round the trees and cut the grass round them.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Mayow Park has an impressive number of pollarded boundary oaks, planted between 250 and 300 years ago to mark field boundaries, before the existence of the public park we know today.
Boundary oaks indicate a once common farming practice to mark land and field boundaries in the same way as walls and fences.

Pollarding is a pruning method used for centuries to manage trees. The upper branches are removed when the tree is still young and in the case of these ancient boundary oaks they develop new upward-growing branches which over the centuries become as thick as mature trees and look like respectable tree trunks in their own right.
 Daniel Greenwood (from Sydenham Hill Wood, a stone’s throw from our park) has written about boundary and pollard oaks in nearby areas and you can read his fascinating article about some of the trees here:
 So Mayow’s ancient oaks reflect past local land management, while providing habitats for a large number of flora and fauna today. Birds, small mammals and invertebrates make their homes in the hollows, fungi and mosses find somewhere to grow. The trees contribute to the character of the park and park users have often said that the Mayow trees are valued in making the park landscape so special.
When a lovely tree that has stood for centuries loses a major limb many of us express sadness, as happened to a pollarded oak in Mayow Park on 19th May 2017. A local resident posted a photo to Friends of  Mayow Park Facebook group, thus alerting park users and the park maintenance team.

Tree alert. Photo by K Andreakou
The tree that lost a limb had the widest girth of any of the ancient trees in the park as measured on a tree walk in 2016.  Word quickly spread. Soon adults and children were seen clambering over the fallen limb and around its broad branches,  enjoying the opportunity to get close and personal.   A tree that probably few had noticed became a celebrity overnight. It was lovely to see how people engaged with the tree. But current concerns about health and safety, with the risk of someone falling and injuring themselves, was too great. Something had to be done.                                                                                                            
Clambering around a fallen tree
Heavy branches of the fallen limb hidden by dense foliage           
Within a week a team of arboriculturalists from Sevenoaks arrived to make the broken limb ‘safe’. 
photo K Andreakou
Photo K Andreakou
Photo K Andreakou
These guys are clearly skilled at their job.  They explained their intention to leave most of the thicker branches on the ground to create wildlife habitats. Some of the thinner branches were taken to use as path edge markers along the woodchip path adjacent to the dawn redwood tree. Other branches were relocated by volunteers from Friends of  Mayow Park into a locked woodland nature area for wildlife, out of reach of human interference. And the thinner branches were shredded.

Broken limb still attached to parent tree by a small fragment of wood and bark

Concerns were raised by park users: maybe this tree is diseased because the heartwood of the broken limb was powdery brown sawdust? 

Powdery hollow heartwood

Without scientific knowledge about ancient oaks, I am inclined to the view that the collapsed limb may be due to old age, to the natural hollowing out of the inner trunk and to being a pollard with heavy limbs that lean out from the tree. I hope someone with greater knowledge can come forward to suggest some reasons for this fail. Meanwhile, the exposed inner core can provide a home to solitary bees, beetles and other invertebrates while the tree continues to live.
Looking around at other ancient oaks in Mayow Park, regular park users will recall that in July last year a mature oak split in two and needed urgent surgery. It now stands as a monolith tree where the whole crown was removed. Tree surgeons pruned it to remain standing as a monolith tree, allowing natural decay processes to continue for wildlife. Remarkably, it survives and has started producing new growth with side branches.
Not far from the monolith tree is the ‘lightning tree’. Hit by lightning a few decades ago, it lost most of its crown, thus exposing its hollow interior. It continues to survive, with growth only on one side of the trunk. 

These individual ancient trees contribute to the value of the park. Regular visitors recognise them, plants and animals colonise them and they recall land management history as pollarded and boundary oaks. 

(Photos by K Andreakou and A Sheridan)

Friday, 5 May 2017

A story of a gate pillar

Have you  ever looked at the gate pillars in Mayow Park? There are four entrance gateways to the park but only three with brick pillars.  Some are a piece of Victorian history. But some pillars are replacements. 
Here are pictures of the gate pillars near the cafe. One of the pillars had to be replaced  around 2013 when  major work was being carried out the the pavilion building which now houses the cafe. The second pillar is older.  
Gateway near cafe, left hand pillar (when viewed from within park)

The other pillar near cafe viewed from the street
Take a look at the gateway at the Silverdale entrance. One of the two pillars there looks older than the other. Does anyone know the history?
Silverdale gate pillar [1]

Silverdale gate pillar [2]

There is one entrance with a difference: the park gates opposite De Frene Road. The gates here are attached to a metal post. Does anyone know why there is no brick pillar here? If you do, please share this information.

If you walk to the south-west corner of the park and to the gate pillars at the entrance to Recreation Road you will see that this pair of pillars look slightly wider than at the other two gates. You will see that the pillar on the left (when viewed from within the park) has suffered with time and the elements, its red brickwork crumbling like chalk dust through weathering. Look at the other pillar and you would be correct in assuming it has been repaired and not for the first time.
The most recent repair has just been completed. The damage to this pillar happened on 22nd July 2016 when a grounds maintenance tractor towing grass mowing blades on a trailer hit the pillar. The vehicle was on its way to mow the grass in the oval sports area but it did not complete its mission on this particular day.
Damage to pillar 22 July 2016
photo Suzanne Thompson
As far as we know, from eye witness accounts, while entering the park the tractor driver had to swerve suddenly to avoid a dog running across his path. As a result the towing unit caught one of the pillars and caused sufficient damage to make the whole structure unsafe. Thanks to one of the Friends of Mayow Park Facebook group who posted this photo minutes after the accident.
Luckily the dog was safe and no-one was hurt.  The gate itself was rescued as was the capstone and much of the pillar was removed to avoid danger to the public.
Managers from Glendale (the company that manages most of the parks in the borough on behalf of Lewisham) ensured that Heras fencing was installed so that the entrance can be locked in the evenings.

Heras fencing in place

Communications between Glendale managers and Friends of Mayow Park followed. We were assured that efforts would be made to seek out the same type of red Victorian bricks or something similar. Progress was made, a source of these bricks was found and it looked like the pillar would be repaired before the end of 2016.
The repair was delayed for  sensible reasons;  major renovation works were about to take place to the tennis courts.  These tennis courts were rather dilapidated with a very poor ground surface. Renovation would mean heavy vehicles carrying building machinery and materials going in and out of the park from the Recreation Road gate. It made sense to delay repairs until building works to the tennis courts were completed. 
And so it was that the rebuild of the pillar was put on hold until April 2017.
10th April 2017 preparing the pillar as work commences
12th April

12th April, work is well underway
Good progress 13th April
18th April
Top course of bricks completed 20th April

At the time of writing, the pillar is almost finished and the gate has been reinstalled. All that is left to complete the work is to top the pillar with the capstone, which has been carefully stored at another park for the duration.

The capstone is extremely heavy and needs a suitable vehicle with lifting gear so we had to wait for the final photo.

The gate looks lovely again. Well done to Glendale for sourcing suitable bricks and to the maintenance crew who took such care in rebuilding it. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Big Dig success on 22 April 2017

The Big Dig day arrived and our core volunteers wondered if other park users would join us in planting edibles in the herb bed.  The Big Dig is an annual event organised by Capital Growth with over 40 community spaces in London taking part:   
Poster for our event.
Our group met at the herb bed, part of Capital Growth community garden 797.  Within minutes a new volunteer arrived.
Before long more new volunteers joined us, including children aged between 3 and 5.We set up our table with sign-in sheet along with all the plants and seed packets.
Our table with pots and leaflets and sign-in sheet
Our main focus today was the herb bed, which had been weeded by Nature's Gym volunteers just over two weeks ago. Since then the bindweed contained in this plant bed has regrown so we had to be careful to pull out as much as we could.

We had a plant pot containing a lavender plant, another pot with sage cuttings, 20 mini hand-made paper pots with young broad bean plants, some potato tubers (Alouette variety) which had been chitted, a plant pot with evening primrose and Welsh poppy. The seed packets contained nigella, marigold, Mexican marigold, sunflower seeds and more.
The first task for Mike and Robert was to dig a trench for our 6 potato tubers and to plant 20 broad beans (variety Aquadulce Claudia).
We used some our own home-made compost in the trench and the bean holes. Robert dug the trench.

Potato variety Alouette 

Potatoes in trench on a bed of compost

Sandra raked soil over the potatoes.
Mike cleared an area for planting the broad beans and the photo below shows  the finished result:


Kareem planted the evening primrose and Welsh poppy (no photo though) before moving on to the fruit bed and weeding around the raspberry canes.
Our banner was unfurled on the ground and two of our younger helpers wanted to pose for a photo by standing on the corners.

Two young helpers posed for a photo on our banner
Christopher and his mum Emily (no photo, blame the photographer!) worked very hard digging up as much bindweed as they could. Christopher was very good at spotting the bindweed and its roots. They sowed a variety of different seeds including marigolds and Nigella. They made a number of journeys to the toilets by the cafe to fetch water in plastic bottles and water the area. Meanwhile another young helper arrived and he joined in the watering.
Two dads and two boys went to the mini wildflower meadow to sow packs of wild flower seeds and had fun watering them in. (Again no photos. Maybe one of the dads has some?)
After two hours with a mix of hard work and and social chat with other volunteers it was time to pack up. Look for the herb bed and all the things that were planted. We had a lovely morning and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hope some of our young helpers will remember to bring watering cans or plastic bottles to water the plants they sowed or planted.